Black Friday just passed us by and I thought there isn’t a better time to start discussing ethical shopping and how to shop better and more efficiently. The best way to start out is by discussing cruelty free makeup and beauty. What I want to make clear is this is just an introductory conversation – we have so much more to do! Also to be perfectly honest this is not something I have a lot of knowledge on personally. I cannot call myself cruelty free by any stretch of the imagination. But when you don’t have the necessary information yourself you call in the experts. Our friend Zara explained to us the intricacies of cruelty free labeling. I definitely think this is a reminder we could all use!
Cruelty-free and vegan are terms that are bandied about often, particularly by high-end makeup brands, but we noticed that most people don’t realise how different these terms are – and rare indeed is the brand that manages to be both cruelty-free and vegan!
Cruelty-free means a product was not tested on animals (e.g. your cruelty-free mascara wasn’t tested by putting out some innocent little rabbit’s eyes).
Vegan means a product does not contain any ingredients of animal origin (e.g. dairy and beeswax).
This makes it very confusing to shop for a truly ethical product – a cruelty-free lipstick could still easily contain carmine (dried extracts of dead bugs commonly used in red lipsticks) and therefore not be vegan, whereas a vegan product could still belong to a brand that tests on animals.
And then there’s the China problem. By definition, every brand that sells in China does test on animals (yes, that includes M.A.C., L’Oréal, Maybelline, and even high end brands like Dior, Clinique, Estee Lauder, heartbreakingly enough even NARS and Benefit), since Chinese law mandates that beauty products imported from abroad be tested in archaic ways on a variety of animals.
Read that again – that illustrative list of brands most likely covers a significant percentage of your beauty products, as it did mine. All of these brands have chosen profit (=selling in China) over ethics (=refusing to test on animals). Some of them make the excuse that they don’t do the testing themselves – they merely pay a fee to the Chinese government in order for the tests to be conducted (M.A.C. is one of those to propound this line of argument).
These brands may not test on animals in other regions, for e.g. the EU, where animal testing is forbidden, but they’re willing to toe the line in parts of the world where they’re required to.
There’s hope in the form of brands that refuse to sell in China for this reason. Milani (one of my favourites), the Body Shop, Smashbox, Tarte and Lush are all examples of this. There’s another layer to this – some companies have lines that are cruelty-free as well as lines that test on animals (e.g. L’Oreal owns the Body Shop and NYX, which are cruelty-free, as well as Maybelline, which is not). It would be ideal to avoid supporting any company that tests on animals, but that may be asking for a perfect world. It may make some sense to patronize cruelty-free lines and send their owners the message that these lines can do well too.
There are also some all-too rare vegan brands. To be truly vegan, a product needs to contain no dairy, beeswax, propolis, honey, carmine or any other animal-derived ingredients. Note that these ingredients masquerade under various guises – carmine is also simply called ‘natural red’ or ‘crimson lake’ or ‘CI 75470’, making it impossible to identify the animal origins of the ingredient unless one has looked into these guises with some seriousness. To me, a non-vegan brand is still contributing to animal cruelty in a large degree by using these ingredients (but that’s a discussion for another day…)
Image from : Cruelty Free Kitty
Look for the PETA rabbit or the Leaping Bunny certification to identify cruelty-free brands, and a simple identification of ‘vegan’ on labels to figure out whether there are dead bugs in your lipstick or beeswax in your lip balm.
Indian cruelty-free brands include Just Herbs and Soultree (but note that neither are vegan). For cruelty-free and vegan, local options include the little-known but very ethical Disguise Cosmetics and Plum. Some brands have specific vegan products – for instance, the cheap and cheerful Wet n’ Wild happily has a list up on its website.
A great resource to check whether your favourite brands are cruelty-free is www.crueltyfreekitty.com. I use it as a ready reckoner before buying any beauty products at all. It’s hard to stay cruelty-free – especially when Maybelline has a plethora of discounts on offer and M.A.C. releases a new, plush looking line of lip glosses – but it’s worth it to know you’re not causing any extra harm to our world and living in harmony with its beings.
Let us know if you have any questions or suggestion on cruelty free brands. It would be great to have a resource here to refer to for cruelty free Indian brands.
– This guest post was contributed to Fashion and Frappes by our friend Zara. You can follow her on Instagram!